Room at the inn? Pueblo council grapples with homelessness
Author: Kara Mason - November 27, 2017 - Updated: November 27, 2017
This week Pueblo City Council may approve an ordinance that creates an emergency overnight homeless shelter for when the weather turns frigid.
The city, with a population of just over 110,000 people, doesn’t currently have an emergency homeless shelter. It hasn’t since last spring, when the Salvation Army closed its doors, as the Pueblo Chieftain previously reported:
Pueblo Rescue Mission officials had predicted they would have the old Wayside Cross Mission on Fourth Street remodeled by the end of December, but those plans have been indefinitely postponed, according to a spokesman.
Now the city is entering into an agreement with the Pueblo Rescue Mission to temporarily open the Hype Park Community Center on nights when the temperature is expected to drop below freezing; 100 or more people could be sleeping at the center then.
Even though the shelter won’t serve meals and plans to bus the people using the facility back downtown during the day, neighbors told the Chieftain they aren’t interested in having homeless people in their West Side neighborhood. One mom pointed out to Chieftain reporter Peter Roper that there is a bar and liquor store closeby, and it probably isn’t the best place for a pop-up homeless center.
Pueblo has been attempting to deal with a homeless problem for the last few years. City Councilwoman Lori Winner has taken a strong stance against squatters; some community advocates have blamed marijuana for an increase in homelessness (which hasn’t been proven through data), and now the city lacks fewer resources to support the homeless population with one shelter closed and its replacement postponed indefinitely.
Councilman Bob Schilling, who represents the neighborhood where the emergency shelter would be located, said during a council meeting the city wouldn’t let people freeze to death.
Still, one West Side resident speculated to the Chieftain that the city wouldn’t follow through with the chosen location, adding that a downtown location would be better.
City and county officials had their sights set on one downtown location, but those plans fell through.
According to a state count, there are around 1,800 people who are homeless in Pueblo County.